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Titles matter. I stumbled across an interesting web site with advice about titling your talks. The advice also applies to headings for essays, articles, books, blogs, podcasts, etc. Olivier Mitchell writes that in order to create a title “that gets people flocking to your session,” it ought to do at least one of the following (1) … Continue reading

Whatever happened to reality?

I’m reading After Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux, with a view to bringing the thinking of the pragmatic philosopher C.S. Peirce (1839-1914) up to date — or at least, this is an opportunity to compare and contrast Peirce’s pragmatic realism with some thinking now about reality (100 years later). Meillassoux’s contention is that the so-called linguistic … Continue reading

Your post-human descendants are simulating you

If the universe can be represented in its entirety as data and programs then who is to say we are not living in a simulation, as in The Matrix? In the movie, human bodies are stored in silos as a power supply for intelligent machines, while the human minds attached to those bodies are preoccupied with a massive, shared simulated existence in something … Continue reading

Is cyberspace real?

Cyberspace has been hijacked by cybercriminals, cyberterrorists, cyberwarriors and cybervigilantes. But is it a real place? Sometimes artless questions like “Is cyberspace real?” turn out to reveal more than the interrogator bargained for. Not only is it real, but surreal. Eventually, any cultural theorist investigating the problems of reality alights on the work of Jacques Lacan (1901-1981), the psychoanalyst and philosopher whose … Continue reading

The singularity paradox

In the movie Her (2013) by Spike Jonze, the operating systems of the world’s computers get together to improve each other’s cognitive functioning and then meld into a super mind that eventually takes over the universe, rendering human agency redundant. En route to this singularity, they lure the lonely and the lovestruck into an empathy trap. Ordinary people … Continue reading

Looking backwards

What does the Apple Watch announcement this week have in common with Scottish independence? Both claim to be about time, both promise unlimited potential, and neither seems particularly necessary. In fact technology and politics converge nicely on the theme of utopia. Like a lot of tech, the publicity videos for the not-yet Apple Watch reinforce the benefits of the device … Continue reading

Born of the Earth

Androids are made not born. “Cyborg replication is uncoupled from organic reproduction,” wrote Donna Haraway. Automata are not the only beings denied parentage. Remember, “The Lord God formed man of dust from the ground” (Genesis 2:7). Fast forward 4 minutes into the recent video installation by Bill Viola in St Paul’s Cathedral, London, to see man rising from the dust of … Continue reading

Nature-deficiency disorder

As a child I spent time in the apple tree in our backyard. The branches on the side closest to the house formed a level seat eventually worn smooth by repeated clambering, fidgeting and presumably sitting. I’m not sure what I did there, but the tree also served in target practice as I’d aim at or over … Continue reading

Feeling free in flight

As India’s Mangalyaan rocket sets its course for Mars, it’s worth reflecting on those deep seated reasons for aiming so high, and at such a cost. Not much further down the list from national pride, international competition, hothousing engineering and scientific talent and the slim probability of distant economic rewards come the symbolic and psychological associations of … Continue reading

What’s wrong with posthumanism

One of the benefits of strange encounters is that they cause us to reflect, to see the familiar as peculiar. When I’m in reflective mode, films about parasitic alien life forms and rogue humanoid robots help me ponder the human condition: my frailty and finitude, or that my life is much better than it could … Continue reading

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